Poor, poor Hutch is all emotionally tapped out at the moment. I just want to hug him and tell him, ‘It will be okay,’ but that could be a lie, so for now I’ll just keep quiet.
“A’ris,” Hutch said under his breath, “They sent these maps to you knowing exactly how dangerous this mission would be. You’re like bait. A tasty morsel for the opposition to dine on, just offered up on a shiny platter for consumption.”
She shook her head in disagreement, moving quickly around the small room at the top of the monk’s house, being sure she had everything ready to go. They left in one hour.
“No, I don’t think that’s it. They’ve been waiting, Hutch. Waiting for someone like me to be born to royal blood. I’m the key, don’t you see, the maps simply tell us where to go. The Guild can’t move forward without me – alive.”
“Yet, they’ve allowed you to come this far on your own, knowing it was only a matter of time before your father learned of your betrayal and sent assassins out to each corner of the world. They’re hunting for you, A’ris. Like game. This isn’t a self-discovery journey anymore – what you’re doing is tantamount to martyrdom!”
She pushed the door open and Hutch caught her arm, spinning her toward him. Her face was just an inch below his, and even with her maddening ability to piss him off, he wanted to dip his head down and meet her lips with his. Instead he set his jaw and spoke to her between clenched teeth.
“I won’t let you offer yourself up for their cause so eagerly, so stupidly. Good Gods, woman, have some respect for your own life!”
The muscles in his jaw quivered loose and he gasped when she grabbed the front of his shirt and tugged him even closer. They were so close he could see each fleck of shimmering color in her eyes. In that split-second, he memorized every shade of green that twinkled behind her dark-red lashes.
“That’s why I have you, Hutch. With you by my side, how can I fail?”
Just as harshly as she’d pulled him to her, she pushed him away and called out to Riot to follow her before vanishing into the narrow hallway. With each step she took downstairs, he inhaled and exhaled, forcing his lungs to send oxygen to his brain before he passed out.
Hutch didn’t know what power A’ris had over him, but it was no longer something felt just in his heart. She was consuming his entire being, and if he let her, A’ris would own his very soul.
The fingers in his left hand curled inward toward his palm and as fast as he could blink, he punched the bedroom wall with all his force. Before cursing with resignation at the fact that A’ris might forever hate him for what he had to do, he pushed off the wall and exited the room, leaving nothing of himself behind but a hole in the flimsy wooden plank wall and a piece of skin rubbed off his middle knuckle. It wasn’t the first injury of the day, nor was it the worst, but it hurt more than anything Hutch had felt in his thirty-something years of existence.
To save her life, he was going to betray the woman he loved. It was the only choice the fates were offering.
– Copyright Trish Marie Dawson, The Dry Lands